Chinatown’s new Napal Baji, which bills itself as a 1980s-style Korean pub, is the kind of place that works better with some ground rules. If you’re not into lively, chaotic atmospheres and communal plates accompanied by alcohol, you might want to take a pass. For the rest of us, it’s simply awesome.
Whether you’re enthusiastic or just curious, definitely bring friends. They should be hungry and thirsty, but not necessarily of the vegetarian or vegan persuasion, because while the voluminous menu is brimming with options, very few don’t include meat and/or cheese.
And please make sure your crew includes a designated driver, since part of the fun Napal Baji involves its seemingly endless rounds of soju and beers.
Still intrigued? Start with an order of dried pollock (nogari) and peanuts ($15), quite possibly the Valley’s best new bar snack—salty, smoky fish jerky served with a combination of mayo and soy sauce for dipping, with crunchy peanuts for a range of textures. It’s seriously addictive.
A couple of my favorite large-format dishes are the pork back ribs ($35) and cheese dak galbi ($41). The former is pretty straightforward, tender ribs topped with a mound of mozzarella, lit afire tableside for some culinary theater. The latter arrives deconstructed, stir-fried chicken, tteok (cylindrical rice cakes) and sweet potatoes, which are then mixed on the table-top burner. Both dishes are spicy—rife with peppers beyond typical gochujang flavors.
The spicy moon snail salad ($26), also known as golbaengi muchim, might seem challenging, but in actuality, it’s relatively benign with the namesake gastropods lurking in a mixture of sliced vegetables. Its heat builds, but the dish isn’t particularly spicy, and the snails aren’t chewy or earthy, mostly taking on a gochujang-like profile from the sauce. Plus, it’s fun to lay claim to having had moon snail salad.
You’ll definitely want some Korean bottled beers—Terra is much better than Kloud—and if you have enough friends, order a beer tower. Most importantly, make sure the soju keeps flowing. The fun is in the flavors, and Napal Baji has at least a dozen at all times. My favorites are chamisul (fresh) and yogurt, but feel free to try the mint chocolate if you dare.
Oh, and I did mention there are disco balls, prepackaged ice cream treats and a K-pop soundtrack? What else could you want from a night out?
NAPAL BAJI 5865 Spring Mountain Road #145, 702-331-0477, napalbajipub.com. Daily, 6 p.m.-2 a.m.